07 September 2023 ~ 0 Comments

Smiles per gallon: Stewart Sims’ 1990 Volkswagen Polo Fox

Once commonplace on Britain’s roads, the boxy – and very popular – Mk 2 Polo provided tough, well-made, but few-frills transport for many drivers. Four decades later, it is carving out a niche as a starter classic. Perhaps not the obvious choice after a string of more traditional classics, car enthusiast Stewart Sims is glad he hunted down his Polo Fox

When the Volkswagen Polo was launched in 1975, it quickly set the template for small cars with its nicely proportioned style, high quality build, sweet-revving engines and nimble handling. The second-generation car which arrived in 1981 continued that trend – unsurprising perhaps as it was based on the mechanical bones of its feted predecessor – but with one big difference. The silhouette now resembled a small estate car, rather than sharing the slope-tailed outline of the first generation car. This made it distinctive, though, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s Mk 2 ‘breadvan’ Polos were easy to spot.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and 40 years after its introduction, the second-generation VW Polo is now much harder to find. Usually driven by ‘older’ folks in-period, younger drivers now take a shine to the car, lured by its simple mechanical nature, and no-nonsense, no-frills make-up and specification. Stewart Sims is one such owner. He purchased the 1990 Polo Fox seen here in May 2021 from UK Volkswagen specialist UKD Auto in Bristol. Previously owning cars such as a Rover 220 Coupé, the Polo seems an odd choice.

Distinctive and characterful
“I wasn’t specifically looking for a Polo,” Stewart says. “Having owned a string of classics from the 1970s up to 1999, I felt drawn towards older, simpler cars again. In fact, I am more in my comfort zone with British cars and was actually considering a Mini,” he continues. So why did the Polo appeal? “The Mk 2 Polo is just such a clean design, and this car is an incredibly clean example, too,” Stewart says. “I’ve always liked Mk 2 Golfs, but the ‘breadvan’ shape of this Polo in my view makes it even more distinctive and characterful. It also helps that it’s small so it can fit in a garage yet it has a big hatchback boot that can easily swallow some comfy chairs for car shows or picnics,” he explains.

It’s worth pointing out that the Fox was more ‘characterful’ than most other Mk 2 Polos. Later cars such as Stewart’s featured distinctive ‘Checkweave’ padded interior trim, white bumper and grille pinstriping, and distinctive star-shaped wheel trims, the latter items Stewart’s car lacks. First introduced as a special edition version of the Polo hatchback in 1984 aimed at younger buyers with a palette of bright colors and special ‘Fox’ decals that adorned its flanks, the model became a mainstay of the range in 1985 (the badge also appearing on the Polo Coupé) and served as the entry point in the Polo range, right up until the Mk 2 Polo’s – post-facelift – demise in 1994.

G550 DPY has had seven or eight owners over its 33-year life, but sadly Stewart has very little in the way of history. “I bought it from UKD Auto who are German classic car specialists, and I imagine they’d found it sitting in a garage for a long time and bought it to restore,” says Stewart. The car has had a full respray in Tornado Red and a mechanical overhaul, and as a result, Stewart reports that it drives very well.

The car is Stewart’s first Volkswagen, having had his eye on other Wolfsburg classic. “Not long before I bought the Polo, I was outbid on a Beetle at a car auction. I was a bit disappointed but then the Polo came along, so one way or another the universe provided my first Volkswagen!” he says. At the time of purchase, the car had covered just under 52,000 miles since 2 February 1990 when it was first registered, and the odometer now reads almost 53,500 miles. Not a ‘daily’, those extra 1,500 miles have largely been added through the journeys to and from classic car events. “We’ve been to lots of shows!” says Stewart. “The car came from near Bristol, and I live in Norfolk now. It’s seen most of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire in the time I’ve owned it.”

Stewart planned to carry out a few minor tasks to make the Polo a little more user-friendly in the 2020s, including adding a 12V socket (yes, the Fox was that basic, folks). Overall, though, Stewart’s plan was to retain the look of a car that was everywhere when he was young and now you rarely see in such original condition. Compared to the ‘fun’, and mostly sporty cars he owned before – also including an MG Midget as well as his beloved Rover 220 Coupe – Stewart says the 45bhp, 1,043cc Polo is definitely more sedate, and has half the power of any other car he has owned! “But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun,” he says. “It is now at an age where it turns heads and is also a really great car to nip about in – it just might not win a traffic light drag race!”

A broad appeal
Stewart’s little red Polo doesn’t just turn heads on the road. A regular on the local and national show circuit, the now rare small Volkswagen attracts attention wherever it goes. “A lot of people want to take photos and have a chat,” Stewart reports. “This age and era of Polo has a broad appeal to a lot of people because they were so practical and versatile. Most people of a certain age remember one being in their lives or had a friend who owned one,” he says.

“It’s such an easy classic to live with, too, because everything is simple to access and also to disassemble. It’s a very practical car as well and I think Polos will become a very popular ‘starter classic’ for a lot of people in the coming years,” Stewart enthuses. However, despite the car’s ease of tinkering with, it’s not always been plain sailing. A blowing exhaust, coolant leaks, a new coolant bottle and the speedo cable have all caused issues, but the biggest problem Stewart has experienced, is the age-old Mk 2 Polo ailment of an iced carburettor.

“This has definitely been the most problematic thing to deal with,” Stewart confirms. “The others are all things I’ve experienced and dealt with before. It was pretty scary losing power on a dual carriageway! To be fair, other Polo owners had warned me the cars are susceptible to this, but as it only shows up in certain weather conditions it’s hard to tell if you have the problem until it’s too late. Fortunately it all turned out OK and once the carb had thawed out I could continue my journey and the fix was straightforward,” he says. Stewart has documented fixing a few of these problems on his Substack pages.

Sadly, some signs of corrosion on the bodywork have forced Stewart’s hand and he is selling the car, entering it into an East Anglian Motor Auctions sale in Norwich on 9 September. “The bodywork showing signs of poor repair only a couple of years after being resprayed was a real shame. It can be sorted, but I didn’t buy the car to get into the level of work it might need to put right. It passed its last MOT with no advisories, so it’s not got to the stage where it is structurally a problem. It could easily be rescued by someone willing to put the time and money into it. No-one has even commented on it at a car show yet either,” he explains.

Practical and well-rejuvenated
As he enjoys owning it, Stewart initially planned to keep the little red Polo for a long time. “My motivation for buying a more practical and well-rejuvenated car was that I could spend a bit more time enjoying it, rather than fixing it, or waiting for the right conditions or opportunity to take it out. It has fitted very well into my lifestyle,” he says.

“I’ve enjoyed owning it very much because it is such an easy-going ownership experience: it’s easy to drive, simple to maintain and practical. The running costs and part prices are low and it’s also the sort of car that always puts a smile on people’s faces. I always intended to do what I could to keep it in good condition,” Stewart adds. The car has had its moment in the spotlight, though, attending those local shows and also the Festival of the Unexceptional, where it was snapped for inclusion in a recent issue of Classic.Retro.Modern magazine.

Very much a reluctant sale, the Polo will be replaced at some point in the future, but with life events currently taking priority, Stewart is unsure what form its successor will take. “Eventually I think the Polo will be replaced. At the moment, with a home renovation to contend with, I’m going to (try) to have a break from owning a classic for a little while,” he says. “I don’t know what I would replace it with yet. One thing I enjoy, and want to try to spend more time doing, is going out on walks with the dog in the countryside, so perhaps something a bit more rugged, and that I’m less likely to be worried about getting dirty might be an idea!” he says.

Whatever that car might be, Stewart’s little and simple Volkswagen has set the bar high. “The Polo is such a relaxing car to drive, but if you push it a bit, then it can also be really involving,” he reports. “I think a combination of everything being manual and more ‘analogue’ than modern cars, as well as a great design mean it really is a ‘driver’s car’ despite it not being sporty or fast,” he says.

Early Polos were rarely sporty or fast, but that’s just part of their charm. If you would like to own a piece of late, pre-facelift Mk 2 Polo history, be a little wily and head over to Norwich on 9 September to grab yourself a starter classic. This little red Polo needs to be kept on the road to continue to make people smile.

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07 May 2022 ~ 0 Comments

Car & Classic Auction watch: 1989 Volkswagen Polo CL

It’s strange – and shocking – to realise that early examples of the second-generation Polo are now over 40 years old. However, that means that while it’s not quite a fully paid-up member of the bona-fide ‘classic car’ scene, it is starting to earn a reputation as a starter modern classic. Its cult currency is growing in VW circles, too.

Sloane Ranger darling
Very popular in its heyday – indeed at one point in the mid-1980s, Volkswagen UK sold more Polos than Golfs – the high-spec Polo ‘breadvan’ was the darling of ‘Sloane Rangers’, and was a common sight on the streets of London. (Though we doubt it influenced Volkswagen’s own decision to rename the top-spec GL the ‘Ranger’ from 1987, following a 1986 special edition with the same name.) Seen as an upmarket adversary to the Austin Metro, Fiat Uno, Ford Fiesta, Renault 5, and Vauxhall Nova, a top-rung Polo was a thing to behold.

As is this Polo, due to go under the online hammer on 8 May on the Car & Classic website. Very much a ‘Sloanie’ Polo in appearance, this 1989 Polo CL has covered just 42,700 miles since it rolled off the forecourt, and has an amazing 23 service stamps in its full and unmolested service book.

Fitted with the 55bhp 1,272cc engine, it has a little more get and go than the standard 1,043cc Polo. It’s a five-speeder, too. The listing states that it has barely ventured further than the local area in Sussex where it’s based, and going on the condition, we believe it!

Supplying dealer sticker
High points include the interior, which, thanks to constant garaging throughout the car’s life, is in fine fettle, with no damage to the plastics or fabric trim. The ashtray and cigarette lighter have never even been used, and the carpets have been protected by official Volkswagen floor mats.

While the exterior isn’t quite so blemish-free – a couple of rust spots and some minor paint issues – there is a supplying dealer sticker in the rear window, and all four of the distinctive ‘flat-face’ wheel trims are in place. There is even a pop-out sunroof, which, in period, could leak, but the listing points out this would appear not to be the case with this car.

All in all, G895 WOR looks like a ‘classic’ case of a very well-looked after and very low-mileage second generation Polo. Ironically, it’s its exceptional condition that makes it a car which deserves to shine at events such as Hegarty’s Festival of the Unexceptional. We hope it finds a good home and has its time in the spotlight.

If you fancy a slice of 1980s Sloane Ranger action, the Polo CL Car & Classic Auction starts at 14:25 on 8 May. Head over to the Car & Classic listing to see full details of the car and lots and lots of photos.

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21 May 2020 ~ 0 Comments

21 May 1990: the first Polo rolls off the line at Volkswagen’s Zwickau factory

Now the jewel in Volkswagen’s electric vehicle production crown, the company’s Zwickau factory is home to the first model in the era of ‘new Volkswagen’, the ID 3. However, three decades ago, the first Volkswagen to roll off the production line at the former East German factory in the Mosel region was a Polo.

The DM17,410 Alpine White Polo CL ‘DDR’ (Deutsche Demokratik Republik, East Germany) built on 21 May 1990 was the first of 2,525 Zwickau-assembled Polos that year. Initial Polo production got underway at the rate of 50 units per day, built from ‘knock-down’ kits. Fitted with a catalytic converter and a 1272cc, 55bhp four-cylinder engine, a total of 17,978 Polos were built at Zwickau until February 1991, when the car’s place on the production line was replaced by the second-generation Golf.

Communist-era car
A former Trabant factory, Volkswagen’s takeover of the Zwickau plant was completed in on 26 September 1990. The little communist-era German car born in 1957 had enjoyed a more modern engine during 1989-1990 with the fitment of the 1093 cc unit from the second-generation Polo, and so Volkswagen thought it made sense to build the small Volkswagen in East Germany, too. The cleaner-powered ‘Trabi’ began to banish its noisy, smoky, and two-stroke reputation in favour of a more environmentally-friendly image. Before the Trabant chapter in the Zwickau story, there are more links back to the Volkswagen Group as we know it today. Horch founder August Horch settled in the city in 1904, and brought with him the brand that bore his name, as well as Audi, DKW, and Auto Union.

The second-generation Polos built at Zwickau were identical to those coming off the lines at Volkswagen’s ‘home’ plant in Wolfsburg. Based on the first-generation Polo’s chassis, a very different body ensured that there was no mistaking the new car for the old. Styled like a small estate car, the second-generation Polo had improved engines, more practical features, and increased comfort. Clever ‘Formel E’ versions pioneered some of the BlueMotion technology enjoyed by more recent Volkswagens.

All-electric offensive
Fittingly, the factory which once produced a much cleaner range of Polos, is now spearheading Volkswagen’s all-electric offensive. The new ID 3, the company’s first purpose-designed, electric hatchback is available to order now, and the first examples silently emerged from the plant in November 2019. Marked by a lavish opening ceremony attended by German chancellor Angela Merkel, the factory now solely produces fully electric vehicles. The ID 4 SUV will be the next new car to roll off the lines.

Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH, as the factory complex is now known, now employs over 10,000 people at three locations, a massive increase on the 500 staff when that first Polo was built there in May 1990. A phased €1.2 billion e-mobility manufacturing transformation of the Zwickau factory will see a total of six all-electric models produced at the plant from 2021, with cars from Audi and SEAT added to the pair of ‘new era’ VWs.

Highly automated production lines
A total of 330,000 vehicles will be produced annually by the highly automated production lines, and it won’t be the first time other Volkswagen Group cars will have been made at the Mosel factory: bodies and chassis of Bentleys have been made there since 2001, with those of the Lamborghini Urus joining them in 2017. The luxurious Volkswagen Phaeton also had its bodies built at the historic former East German plant. The Polo may have played a small part in the Volkswagen Zwickau story, but being the first car to roll off the line wearing the fabled VW roundel, its role was a very important one. It helped established a vital grounding for what will now be a blueprint for Volkswagen factories of the future.

Update: the Zwickau factory produced its final internal combustion-engined car on 26 June 2020. Since 1990, a total of 6,049,207 Volkswagen cars have been produced at the plant, and the final petrol-engined car was an Oryx White Pearl Effect Golf R Estate. As well as the Polo, Golf, Golf Estate, Passat and Passat Estate models have also rolled off the Zwickau production lines. The ID 3 which replaces all of them at the factory, will also be produced at Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory in Dresden from 2021.


10 May
August Horch moves his company to Zwickau, and establishes A Horch & Cie Motorwagenwerke AG.

Trabant production starts at the Zwickau factory, now named VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke.

21 May
First ‘GDR’ Volkswagen produced, an Alpine White Polo CL.
August Trabant production ends (Trabants were fitted with Volkswagen Polo engines from 1989).
26 September Ground broken for new automobile factory.
12 December Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH formed.

15 February
Volkswagen Golf production starts in a new purpose-built factory.
October 20,000th Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

23 July
Third-generation Volkswagen Golf production begins.
September 100,000th Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

Volkswagen Golf Ecomatic production starts exclusively at Zwickau.

All-electric Volkswagen Golf CitySTOMER production begins.
August 250,000th Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

Volkswagen Passat joins Golf on the production line.

Annual production capacity reaches 250,000 vehicles.

9 July
One millionth Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

Bentley and Volkswagen Phaeton bodies enter production.

One millionth Volkswagen Passat produced at Zwickau.

Zwickau Volkswagen Golf production reaches one million.


Volkswagen Phaeton body production ends, Bentley Bentayga body production starts.

Lamborghini Urus body production starts.

Transformation to an e-vehicle production hub begins, with a 1.2 billion euro investment. From 2022, 330,000 electric cars will be produced at Zwickau, including six models for three brands: Volkswagen, Audi and SEAT.

4 November
Volkswagen ID 3 pre-production begins, with the build goal of 1,500 units per day.

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04 April 2020 ~ 2 Comments

‘Modern classic’ 1993 Polo Coupé CL fetches £3,150 for StarterMotor charity

Now that the earliest second-generation Polos are almost 39 years old, it could justifiably be called a ‘modern classic’. Even the earliest facelifted ‘2F’ models are now 30 years old (yikes!) so they, too, can be included in the new heritage wave of latter-day machines. And ‘modern classic’ is one description which could be applied to the 1993 Polo Coupé which has fetched over £3,000 at auction. Sale proceeds went to classic car charity StarterMotor.

The 27-year-old Polo Coupé had covered just 37,000 miles from new, and was a two-owner car when it was bought by insurer Hagerty UK on behalf of StarterMotor. A supporter of the charity, Hagerty UK agreed to fund the purchase of the Polo as a charitable donation, as it aligns with its desire to welcome a new generation to the world of classic cars, and celebrates the rising popularity of modern classics. Hagerty also insured the Polo while it was in the care of the Heritage Skills Academy (HSA) which prepared it for auction. The HSA also benefits from StarterMotor charity funding.

Lightly modified
The lightly-modified Polo CL arrived at HSA, based at the huge Bicester Heritage complex in Oxfordshire, in January 2020. Booked into the Bonhams MPH auction on 21 March, the Polo was then returned to as near-standard-specification by the HSA apprentices. The suspension was returned to standard specification, an aftermarket steering wheel was replaced and second-generation Volkswagen Golf-style steel wheels were replaced with near-original-spec 13-inch rims (they appear to be pre-facelift model ‘flat’ items), wrapped in Goodyear tyres. As well as the new components, all the non-standard parts were included in the sale.

The Polo also underwent a comprehensive service at HSA, and was also the recipient of a new cambelt, head gasket, tappets, top-end rebuild, and a water pump. Auto Waxworks then carried out a full detail. Overall, the rejuvenated Polo enjoyed 80 hours of workshop pampering. Marcus Atkinson, Hagerty UK managing director said: ‘Encouraging young people into the world of classic cars is of huge importance to Hagerty, and we have supported StarterMotor and the Heritage Skills Association from the start.’

Sealed bid
StarterMotor is a charity aimed at inspiring young people to learn about classic cars. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Bonhams MPH auction was held behind closed doors. The Polo raised £3,150 for StarterMotor via a sealed bid, which included sellers’ commissions that Bonhams returned to the charity. The final sealed bid’s value was £2,800. ‘To supply a car for this project was a pleasure, and to see it raise so much money at auction, even during these difficult times, shows there is always a buyer for a well-prepared classic car,’ said Atkinson.

As well as a provider of leading insurance products, Hagerty International is regarded as one of the world leaders in the market analysis and the valuation of classic cars. It publishes regular reports taking data from auctions, car sales, collectors, and owners from around the world to give an accurate overview of the classic car market. It also offers an extensive event programme, including the highly-regarded and popular Festival of the Unexceptional which champions more ‘everyday’ cars and it is also one of the world’s largest classic car content providers with digital, film, print and social media channels.

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12 July 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Event photo report:
Club Polo 2015 Polo Social

Over the weekend of 26-28 June, the UK’s leading organisation for Volkswagen Polo owners once again staged its annual gathering. Previously called the ‘Polo Show’, for 2015 the name of the event was changed to more reflect its status and nature, being more of a social meet-up than a full-blown ‘show’ in the traditional sense.

Show ’n’ Shine
Whatever the name, it didn’t deter Polo owners from all corners of the UK descending on Billing Aquadrome in Northamptonshire for three days of Polo-based antics. With a Show ’n’ Shine on the Sunday, we made our way to the event to present the PoloDriver.com trophy for what we thought was the best car at the show. Shane Biggs’ 6N2 GTI was awarded the prize.

Eight trophies in total were up for grabs, with four (1st, 2nd, 3rd best cars in show and ‘People’s Choice’) awards chosen by the event attendees. Club Polo organisers chose the ‘Best Wheels’, ‘Best Interior’ and ‘Best Rat’ winners.

A relaxed and informal atmosphere is one of the nice things about the event, and as usual, there was a nice mix of older and newer cars, though sadly no Mk 1 Polos made the event in the model’s 40th anniversary year. To find out more about Club Polo or to join, visit clubpolo.co.uk.

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